Recipes » Dessert Recipes » Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake is a classic, much-loved recipe. The combination of cocoa layers with cream cheese frosting is a southern favorite!
4.9 from 14 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 28 minutes
Finished red velvet cake with a slice held on a cake server.

Red Velvet Cake is a classic, much-loved recipe. The combination of rich cocoa layers and the luscious cream cheese frosting studded with pecans is a southern favorite!

It’s been a really long time since I baked a cake. I don’t even remember the last one I did bake. So, last weekend I thought it was just time for one.

Finished red velvet cake with a slice held on a cake server.

And what could be better than a good old Red Velvet Cake? With all that yummy cream cheese and toasted pecans, it’s classic southern comfort food! How can you resist something like that?

Red Velvet cake is actually a chocolate layer with red food coloring added and then frosted with cream cheese icing. I started wondering about the origins of Red Velvet, a cake well-known throughout the south, so I did a little internet searching. Turns out not much is known about its origins, but there is general agreement on its popularity!

I love this quote from Angie Mosier, a food writer from Atlanta, who said, “It’s the Dolly Parton of cakes: a little bit tacky but you love her!” Perfect description of the luscious Red Velvet Cake.

❤ Why We Love This Recipe


  • Classic southern comfort dessert.
  • Features a delicate chocolate flavor.
  • It’s moist, tender, buttery, and sweet.
  • A classic treat that can be enjoyed year-round.

WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING …

“This cake has magnetic attraction—folks are absolutely drawn to it!”
— Miss P

🥘 About the Ingredients


All ingredients needed for red velvet cake.

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  • Flour – You’ll need plain all-purpose flour for this recipe.
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder – Provides the light chocolatey flavor characteristic of this cake.
  • Buttermilk – The use of buttermilk in this recipe is interesting. It 1) acts as a tenderizer, 2) adds moisture, and 3) reacts with the baking soda and vinegar to provide rise and lift to the layers.
  • Sugar – White, granulated sugar.
  • Eggs – Make sure they’re at room temperature.
  • Vegetable Shortening – Typical of recipes from this timeframe, shortening is used in place of other fats. It was plentiful and cheap during the time this recipe was created.
  • Vinegar – Reacts with the baking soda to give this cake light and fluffy texture.
  • Baking Soda – Provides lift to the batter.
  • Vanilla Extract – Where there’s chocolate, there’s almost always vanilla. It brings out the flavor of the chocolate.
  • Salt – Even in baked goods, a tiny amount of salt enhances the flavor.
  • Red Food ColoringBecause it’s not truly a red velvet cake if it’s not red!
  • Cream Cheese Frosting– A blend of butter, cream cheese, vanilla extract, powdered sugar, and toasted pecans.

You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe at the bottom of this post.

🔪 How to Make Red Velvet Cake


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans and set them aside. (You could use two 9-inch pans, but I think the 8-inch size makes a prettier cake.)

Mix the Batter for the Layers

  1. Cream together the shortening and sugar until fluffy.
  2. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating for 1 minute at medium speed.
  3. Add the cocoa and red food coloring to the creamed mixture.

👉 PRO TIP: Now let me tell you that red food coloring and KitchenAid mixers have no respect for your kitchen cabinets, countertops, or your clothing. More shirts have been ruined while making Red Velvet cakes. So, when I get to this step, I turn off the mixer and very gently and easily stir the coloring in by hand.

Some people make a paste of the cocoa and food coloring and then add the paste to the creamed mixture. That also helps prevent splashing of the red food coloring.

  1. Add the vanilla to the buttermilk and set aside.
  2. Sift the flour together with the salt.
  1. Alternately add the flour and buttermilk to the creamed mixture.
  2. Blend the vinegar and baking soda in a small bowl. Beat it into the mixture.

Bake and Cool the Layers

  1. Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans and bake for 20-28 minutes.

👉 PRO TIP: I know 20-28 minutes is a big time difference, but it depends on your oven, the weather, and lots of other stuff. Just start checking it at about 20 minutes.

  1. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pans for approximately 10 minutes. Turn out the layers onto a rack to cool completely.

Make the Frosting

  1. Beat the butter and cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl until light and creamy.
  2. Add the vanilla and confectioner’s sugar and beat well.
  3. Stir in the pecans.

Frost the Cake

  1. Spread frosting between the layers, on top and sides of the cake.
  2. Sprinkle top with additional toasted pecans.

👉 PRO TIP: When frosting a cake, I like to start by putting strips of wax paper around the edges of the plate or pedestal to keep it clean while I work. Also, I place a dollop of frosting on the cake plate to hold the bottom layer. It keeps it from slipping around on the plate. Once the frosting is complete, remove the wax paper and the plate is nice and clean!

❗ Tips


  • Want to avoid using artificial food coloring? You can simply make the recipe without it. The cake will have a lovely light brown color. Some cooks use beet juice as a natural alternative.
  • Make sure the eggs and buttermilk are at room temperature before adding them to the batter. This will help create a consistent texture. When making the frosting, ensure the cream cheese and butter are also at room temperature.
  • Try lining the pans with parchment paper. This, in addition to cooking spray, will prevent the layers from sticking.
Finished red velvet cake on a white pedestal.

🍚 How to Store


Leftovers may be held at room temperature for about a day or stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. To freeze, slice into individual servings, wrap well in plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

🕒 Make Ahead


To make ahead, bake, cool, and freeze the layers. On the morning of the day you plan to serve, remove the layers from the freezer, allow them to partially defrost, and assemble the cake while it’s still cold. Let the finished cake sit at room temperature until ready to serve.

Finished red velvet cake with a slice held on a plate.

🍽 Serving Suggestions


This is a visually stunning dessert that is just as pretty served plain as it is with a little pizzazz! I recommend slicing the cake and serving it on your prettiest partyware! Try garnishing with additional pecans, chocolate shavings, or gold sprinkles.

❓ Frequently Asked Questions


Is red velvet cake really just chocolate cake?

Yes and no. It has cocoa powder in the batter, but not as much as a typical chocolate cake would have. It really has its own unique flavor!

What makes red velvet cake taste different?

The combination of vinegar, buttermilk, and cocoa powder creates a unique flavor that is distinctly different from other chocolate cakes.

Why is it called red velvet cake?

The term “red velvet” was coined to describe the color of the cake as well as its velvety texture. Today, the term typically implies a light chocolate flavor and red color. You can find recipes for everything from red velvet ice cream to red velvet popcorn!

🧾 More Recipes You’ll Like


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📖 Recipe

Finished red velvet cake with a slice held on a cake server.

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake is a classic, much-loved recipe. The combination of cocoa layers with cream cheese frosting is a southern favorite!
4.93 from 14 votes
Print It Rate It Save
Course: Desserts
Cuisine: Southern, Vintage
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 28 minutes
Total Time: 58 minutes
Servings: 16 servings
Calories: 322kcal
Author: Lana Stuart

Ingredients

  • ½ cup vegetable shortening (Crisco brand recommended)
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ounce red food coloring
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 ½ cups flour sifted
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

For the frosting:

  • ½ cup butter
  • 8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla flavoring
  • 1 pound confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup chopped, toasted pecans (additional 1/2 cup to sprinkle on top if desired)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans and set aside.
  • Cream together the shortening and sugar until fluffy.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating for 1 minute on medium speed.
  • Add the cocoa and red food coloring to the creamed mixture.
  • Add the vanilla to the buttermilk and set aside.
  • Sift the flour with the salt.
  • Alternately add the flour and buttermilk to the creamed mixture.
  • Blend the vinegar and baking soda in a small bowl and beat it into the mixture.
  • Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans and bake 20-28 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pans for approximately 10 minutes. Turn out layers onto a rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:

  • Beat the butter and cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl until light and creamy.
  • Add vanilla and confectioner’s sugar and beat well.
  • Stir in pecans.
  • Spread frosting between layers, on top and sides of cake. Sprinkle top with additional toasted pecans.

Notes

  • Make sure the eggs and buttermilk are at room temperature before they are added to the batter. This will help create a consistent texture. When making the frosting, make sure the cream cheese and butter are at room temperature as well.
  • Leftovers may be held at room temperature for about a day, or stored in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • To freeze, slice the cake into individual servings, wrap well in plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 322kcal | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 52mg | Sodium: 256mg | Potassium: 89mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 422IU | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.

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Recipe Rating




30 Comments

  1. The red velvet cake: 2 cups wesson oil
    1 teasp cocoa
    2 oz red food coloring
    Now you have a red velvet cake.

  2. Hello Lana , First of all thank you for this amazingly looking velvet cake .
    Secondly , I tried baking it but I hated the taste of vegetable shortening ! I don’t know but it tasted awful :( . Can I try baking it with butter instead of vegetable shortening ? and the crust was dry , how can I get a fluffy tender cakes ?
    And last but not least can I make this recipe as a cupcakes ? Sorry for overwhelm you with my questions , but you are my cooking guru

    Regards

    1. Sure, Aysha, you can try this recipe with butter. Let me know how it turns out.

      Not sure what you mean when you say the crust was dry…do you mean the layers were dry? If so, you probably overcooked it.

      And I’m sure you could make cupcakes from this. Adjust your baking time accordingly.

      1. Thank you Lana , God bless you . I’ll try it again today and I will let you know how it turns out .

        Regards

      2. 5 stars
        I just baked this and I have to say its great. Its moist, flavorful and I cant get enough

  3. The red originally came from beets I believe. Easy to achieve without the artificial colouring.

  4. Red Velvet Cake is so good. I’ve had it before. This one looks so good. When I was in Charleston last summer I had a Red Velvet Cupcake at Cupcake! So good.

  5. I absolutely love red velvet cake. I made it for my daughters 1st birthday and it was a huge hit.
    This is beautiful

  6. Have you ever noticed how Red Velvet cake is the first thing to fly off of the dessert table at a covered dish event? Folks will actually elbow one another to get to it. This cake has magnetic attraction — folks are absolutely drawn to it! Your rendition is absolutely perfect. But, don’t take it to a covered dish supper, unless you alert the riot police first.

    Miss P

  7. This is just another beloved classic and your recipe and photos are so well done. To be honest, we, here in California, are a little shy about this cake. We have seen some very embarrassing photos of people smiling with red teeth after a slice of this delicacy? LOL We just have to try it! Thanks, s

  8. Red velvet is one absolute favorite cake! Speaking of origins, I heard I think on TV that red velvet came about during maybe WWI (or WWII can’t quite remember) when there was a ration on cocoa powder. Some chef somewhere had not enough cocoa to make a decent chocolate cake so instead he compensated by putting in red food coloring and calling it a whole other type of cake!

  9. Ohhh man … u’re right abt it being the Dolly Parton of cakes … but I’ve always had a soft spot for Dolly! Your red velvet cake looks divine … truly … me crave!